A Simple Guide About Hydrogen Cars

Hydrogen fuel systems sound like something out of a futuristic movie.

As of 2019, there are only 3 manufacturers available that have produced hydrogen cars in the UK but we predict over the next 10 – 15 years, we will see a lot more of these vehicles on our roads.

What Is A Hydrogen Car?

A hydrogen car is fuelled solely on hydrogen. Aside from the manufacturing impacts, these vehicles are completely emissions free. The vehicle doesn’t rely on fossil fuels or electricity from charging points meaning the impact on the environment is much lower.

Hydrogen is filled into a tank within the car and is stored within carbon fibre fuel tanks. Hydrogen from the tanks and oxygen from the air travel to the fuel stack which causes a chemical reaction producing energy. This is what makes a hydrogen car work and the end result of the chemical reaction is water. They are a clean and efficient solution to cars on road and pollution.

Toyota Mirai fuel cell stack and hydrogen tank SAO 2016 9037

How Is The Hydrogen Produced?

There are three methods to producing hydrogen which can be much more environmentally efficient when compared to conventional methods.

  • Steam Reforming

Steam reforming is a process where they introduce high-temperature steam to methane gas that triggers a chemical reaction to separate hydrogen.

The methane is sourced from natural gas however this has an impact on ecosystems and costs time, money, energy and emissions.

There are other methods to extracting methane which include capturing the gas from landfills and waste-treatment facilities which has less of an impact on the environment.

  • Gasification

Gasification is a technique that uses crops, material waste and livestock waste that can be converted into hydrogen.

The materials are placed under high temperatures, triggering a chemical reaction that separates the hydrogen.

This process is fantastic for reducing organic waste which provides more land available to it’s natural inhabitants.

  • Electrolysis

Hydrogen can be produced through electrolysis where hydrogen is separated from oxygen.

This process is done by passing an electrical current through water which separates the hydrogen.

The electricity is sourced from renewable energies such as solar, wind or tidal meaning this method is by far the best option for the environment.

Where Can I Re-Fuel A Hydrogen Car?

Here is an interactive map with the location of hydrogen fuelling stations.

As of 2019, there aren’t that many stations in the UK that are offering this service however the Government is proposing more investment into hydrogen so the next 10 – 15 years may look a bit more promising.

The Best And Worst Things About Hydrogen Cars

  • Hydrogen will never run out!

Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe!. There’s so much of it, it makes up over 75% of normal matter. There is simply no scenario where we would ever run out of it…except perhaps the end of the known Universe and let’s be honest, how we fuel cars will be the least of our problems then. This is the closest to an unlimited fuel supply as we’ll ever get.

  • Cheaper Tax For Hydrogen Cars

As the vehicle is classed as an Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) the road tax is non-existent. CarWOW has written a fantastic article informing everyone about London’s ULEZ.

  • Congestion Charges For Hydrogen Cars

For those that commute through congestion charges every day, you will not have to pay due to the zero-emissions of your vehicle

  • Environmental Benefits Of Hydrogen Cars

If more investment is put into hydrogen vehicles, we could soon be seeing a great benefit to the environment. The car’s only waste product would be water! Perhaps with some clever engineering this could also be filtered and used instead of buying copious amounts of water in plastic bottles. At worst I’m sure you can water the plants with it.

The dramatic reduction in emissions from petrol and diesel cars would go a long way to improving air quality and helping to halt climate change. We’d also be healthier in the process as we wouldn’t be breathing in so many pollutants.

Although the process for obtaining hydrogen at the moment isn’t as clean as we would prefer, it’s much better than current alternatives. And if techniques such as electrolosis become widely adopted, this would mean the whole life cycle would be carbon neutral. Now there’s a thought!

  • Mileage For Hydrogen Cars

The Toyota Mirai can reach up to 312 miles with a full tank. This is slightly better than the average fully electric vehicle can manage. A lot more development time and money has gone into electric cars to date so it’s not difficult to see that this range will improve further in a fairly short time.

  • The Expensive Price Tag

In 2019, the cost to buy the Toyota Mirai starts from £62,500 straight from Toyota. A recent study by Kwik Fit determined that the average price for a vehicle in the UK is £10,511 if paying in cash, while those buying on finance bought a car with an average value of £15,438. We can’t imagine hydrogen cars becoming the average vehicle any time soon.

  • Filling Up A Hydrogen Car

Aside from having a scarce amount of fuelling points throughout the UK, a hydrogen car takes slightly longer to refill when compared to petrol or diesel.

  • Cost To Refuel A Hydrogen Car

Hydrogen is sold by weight rather than volume. In the UK, the cost of hydrogen from a fuel station is between £10-£15 per kilogram so completely filling a tank from empty could cost you up to £75.

Are Hydrogen Cars Safe?

Hydrogen is highly flammable. Hydrogen inside a fuel cell is compressed which would make the explosion much worse if it were to ignite.

Luckily, car manufacturers are taking these concerns and finding solutions for them.

Toyota claims their fuel cell tanks can absorb up to 5 times the crash energy compared to steel. The tanks are designed not to leak and consist of layers of polymer, carbon fibre and glass fibre that’s also reinforced with polymer.

In the result of a crash, the Toyota Mirai will shut off the hydrogen system to prevent any leaks. If there was a leak, the chances of an ignition are reduced due to hydrogen being lighter than air. The gas would disperse rapidly which reduces the time window for any form of ignition.

Hydrogen Car Technology

The technology that is built into hydrogen vehicles in phenomenal. The safety features are next level along with the vehicle’s lighting system.

We predict that nearly all vehicles manufactured within the next 10 years will be installed with LED car bulbs. This isn’t just electric, hybrid or hydrogen vehicles though – this will be petrol and diesel cars as well.

Why?… LED bulbs are without a doubt, the future. The technology that is being developed into those nifty little car bulbs is incredible and not to forget the low power usage which essentially helps your battery last even longer! In 10 years, the technology in car bulbs may never be the same again.

The Final Verdict

Hydrogen cars might seem like a vision of the future however we think that within the next 10 – 15 years, hydrogen cars will decrease in price just enough for more drivers to purchase them outright.

As the government invests more funding into hydrogen, we will hopefully start to see more fuelling points across the UK. This in-turn will increase the demand for hydrogen meaning the cost to fill up your vehicle will become cheaper.

Will Hydrogen Overtake Electric Vehicles?

The demand for electric vehicles is steadily rising. While the cost for rechargeable vehicles is going down, the call for more rapid charging points is still an issue. One taxi firm in Southampton spent £30,000 on the electric Nissan Leaf but hadn’t checked if they could recharge the vehicle quickly. Now, they can only use the vehicle in the evening because it takes 7-8 hours to fully charge.

While there’s no way to truly eradicate our carbon footprint, we imagine the future to be a combination of both Hydrogen and Electric, much like today’s diesel and petrol.



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Richard Wood
4 years ago

Hydrogen efficiency between energy source and energy at wheels is about 20%. With a battery electric car, it’s more like 80%. End of chat.